Wax Argument Descartes

Topics: Mind, Perception, René Descartes Pages: 2 (879 words) Published: May 5, 2013
“Wax Argument”:
Rene Descartes was an extraordinary philosopher who introduced a new, obscure, way to understanding the difference between the mind and the body. Descartes’ argument seems to be directed to Aristotle, in order to counter Aristotle’s “sensory argument;” in which everything is a conclusion of the senses. Descartes uses the “wax argument” to distinguish between the mind and body, separating the mind into its own form. The use of wax allows Descartes to prove and make his point because the, shall we say, properties of the wax can be easily altered; changing its physical appearance. “Let us take, for example, this piece of wax: it has been taken quite freshly from the hive, and it has not yet lost the sweetness of the honey which it contains; it still retains somewhat of the odour of the flower from which it has been culled; its colour, its figure, its size are apparent; it is hard, cold, easily handled, and if you strike it with the finger, it will emit a sound” (Descartes 283-86). At first, the properties of the piece of wax are “obvious,” but this is basically where Descartes starts to prove his argument. All the senses are present, sound, taste, smell, touch, and vision. As described, its physical appearance is what helps distinguish what it is, so what he does is completely change what is, at first, described through the senses. “Notice that while I speak and approach the fire what remained of the taste is exhaled, the smell evaporates, the colour alters, the figure is destroyed, the size increases, it becomes liquid; it heats, scarcely can one handle it, and when one strikes it, now sound is emitted” (Descartes 287-90). In nearing the fire, he proves that the senses are not to be trusted due to the fact that now they have all changed, but yet it is still the same piece of wax. Descartes is basically trying to say that we still know it’s a piece of wax due to our “intellect.” This is where he is distinguishing between the mind and the body...
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